What Every Runner Should Do After a Marathon: A Quick Recovery Guide


what to do after a marathon

It's a big mistake many marathon runners make after completing a race—not taking enough time off to recover.

After training for a month and running 26.2 miles, your body needs a break. This article discusses what you need to do after a marathon so that you can recover your strength as well as prevent injury.

Some dedicated runners, especially those who didn't win the race, would rather continue with their training right after the race rather than taking a rest.

They fear that missing a few runs would cancel out their hard-earned fitness. They may also feel that putting a pause on their training after a race is counterintuitive.

Does this sound like you? If you've had a bad race, it's understandable that the last thing on your mind is rest. You most likely want to redeem yourself and are very eager to get back on the running field as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, not taking enough time to recover after a marathon could result in injury and overtraining. Taking a rest after a race is actually beneficial to your body; the long-term rewards of resting will outweigh any temporary drawbacks in your fitness.

why is recovery from a marathon Important?

There are several reasons why a runner should take some time off after a marathon, where tendons, muscles, ligaments, and psychology are challenged.

Rest is crucial. It doesn't matter if you struggled to walk just to finish the marathon. Even if your body doesn’t feel sore, it was subjected to a great degree of physical pressure, so you need some time to recover.

Worn-Out Skeletal Muscle

A scientific study has shown that intensive training and participating in marathons induce inflammation and muscle fiber necrosis. This impairs muscle strength and durability; recovery is required before you can train again.

Cellular Damage

The same study reveals that cellular damage occurs even several days after a marathon. This is measured by the presence and formation of creatinine kinase and high myoglobin levels in the blood.

Cellular damage may persist seven days after a marathon. The presence of myoglobin in the blood may form three to four days after.

Your body needs to take a rest after a race to allow it to recover from cellular damage.

Unlike muscle soreness, some effects of vigorous training and running a marathon are not that obvious. For this reason, you need to rest after a race, even if you do not feel sore.

Weakened Immune System

After a marathon, your immune system is compromised. This increases your risk of catching a cold or the flu. Overtraining could lead to a repressed immune system; skipping rest can interrupt your training and affect your long-term goals. 

what to do after a marathon

what to do after a marathon?

So what do you need to do to recover faster and more easily after a marathon? While rest is recommended, it's not a good idea to do nothing, either.

Here are some suggestions on what you can do after you've crossed the finish line.

Immediately After the Marathon

The things you need to do after a race are just as vital as your training leading up to the marathon. Pre-marathon training is important in preparing your body for the race.

This will help your body recover quickly up to the first few hours after you reach the finish line. But before you celebrate, here are some things that you should do immediately after the marathon.

  • Do not stop moving after you cross the finish line. Keeping your body in motion will help reduce any stiffness. If you just completed a full marathon, walking a mile is enough to lessen the stiffness.

    A walk back to your car will also do. This will keep your blood circulating properly and aid in repairing any damaged muscle tissues.
  • Injury and tight muscles are likely to occur after a marathon. To prevent these, do some stretching. Focus on marathon stretches that put emphasis on your lower back and legs.
  • Remove your sweaty clothes and change into something warm and dry. This will help your body temperature return to normal. Your sweaty clothes will make you feel cold, and you don’t want to waste any more of your energy trying to keep yourself warm.
  • It is also essential to refuel by eating a snack that will keep your energy levels up. Your body will need some carbohydrates for nutrition.
  • Apply ice on painful areas. If you feel pain in any part of your body, ice them. Do this in 15-minute intervals for the entire day and the following day as required. This will prevent swelling and lessen the risk of getting injured.
  • Take a rest once you get home. Allow your body to recuperate, recover, and rebuild. Within a week or two, you can return to running again, but gradually increase your distance. In addition, schedule a massage a week after a long race to avoid any strains.

The Rest of the Day

After completing a strenuous marathon, you may be tempted to lie down on the couch and eat your favorite chips. However, this could delay your recovery.

Making good choices after a marathon will be of tremendous help to your recovery.

Not only do your choices affect how you feel when you get back to running, but also how you feel at home and at work the following week.

You might not be able to sleep properly the night after completing the race. This is a normal reaction and your regular sleeping habits will resume after a few days.

You can get a massage to help you sleep. A massage will soothe your nervous system and enable you to fall asleep more easily. In addition, the above tips on what to do after a marathon will help you recover more quickly.

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